An essential guide

Floaters & flashes are very common and are normally harmless, if somewhat annoying.  Very occasionally, flashes or floaters can be a sign of retinal detachment, which must to be treated as soon as possible.

What are floaters?

Floaters appear as black or dark spots within the vision.  They are often described as looking like 'hairs' or 'cobwebs'.  In the majority of cases, these floaters occur as part of the normal ageing process of the eyes.

Some people find that floaters can be a nuisance but most people become used to them in time.  They rarely cause problems with vision and treatment is not advised.

What are flashes?

You may experience flashes occasionally, on and off over weeks or months. Sometimes flashes just mean that there is a tug on the retina and nothing more. However, constant flashes may be a sign of a retinal detachment.

A retinal detachment may be preceded by a sudden increase in floaters or flashes.  You might also notice a shadow at the edge of your vision, blurred vision, or a red eye.  These symptoms need urgent assessment by your optometrist.  Please contact your local practice and attend on the same day, if this occurs outside of normal practice hours, you should attend your local Accident & Emergency department.

What should I do if I have floaters or flashes?

If you have any of the following symptoms, you should attend your optometrist as soon as possible:

• A sudden increase in floaters, particularly if you also notice flashing lights
• A new, large floater
• A change in floaters or flashing lights following a head injury or blow to the eye
• A shadow spreading across the vision of one of your eyes

Can’t praise the practice highly enough. A couple of years ago I had signs of a detached retina and went immediately to the practice. I was with an optometrist with drops in my eyes and having a detailed eye examination within 10 minutes Patient

Risk factors for retinal detachment

Some people are more at risk of retinal detachment. These are people who:-

• Are short-sighted
• Have had previous eye injury
• Have had eye surgery
• Have had a previous retinal detachment
• Are aged over 50
• Have certain retinal diseases or degenerations
• Have a systemic disease such as Marfans Syndrome (a rare genetic disease, which affects the connective tissues including in the eye)

Do you suffer from floaters and flashes?

Very occasionally, flashes or floaters can be a sign of retinal detachment, which must to be treated as soon as possible. Learn more about the unique specialist services that Black & Lizars offer to help treat conditions like this.

Learn more